Over the last week, in between skiing and just loafing about, I read a magisterial, utterly engrossing history of the last 100-odd years. I can’t recall a book that had such a synoptic view of the entire globe, that weaved politics, sociology, economics and popular culture so skillfully.
What was this marvel? The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt. I’m interested in soccer, but not obsessed. Yet Goldblatt takes the world’s most popular sport and convincingly makes it a lens for understanding different cultures, political transformations and the vagaries of globalization. At the same time, he deftly conveys the beauty, passion and humor of the game. One of my favorite sports writers, Simon Kuper, correctly blurbs The Ball is Round as “a mindboggling achievement”.
I did think of picking up the universally hailed Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of War and Peace to read over the holidays. The Ball is Round weighs in about 300 pages short of Tolstoy’s 1,296. It truly is gripping throughout. Highly recommended.